Schwalm-Nette Nature Park
An unspoilt natural landscape of rivers, lakes and fens
Schwalm-Nette Nature Park provides important habitats for plants and animals, as well as a popular recreation area for visitors to the Lower Rhine.
The Schwalm-Nette Nature Park on the Lower Rhine is dominated by water. The rivers Schwalm, Rur, Niers and Nette as well as backwaters, oxbow lakes, wetlands and quarry ponds all provide important habitats for animals and plants, not to mention wonderful recreation areas for visitors.
The “Wasser.Blicke” (water views) project was set up to show certain bodies of water in their best light. Around two dozen marked look-out points show visitors where they can admire particularly scenic views. Instead of signs, however, the views are marked by blue plates on the ground so as not to spoil the landscape. Visitors who wish to find out more about the nature park can access further information at the look-out points via a QR code or by phone. The bird hide by the Nette, for example, provides facts about bitterns, and visitors can even hear a recording of their call – if they have not been able to hear it in the wild.
Another water view which is typical of the Lower Rhine is the avenues of pollard willows, the branches of which were formerly used for the partitions of the region’s half-timbered houses. The willows became thicker at the points where the branches were cut, giving them their distinctive crowns. These trees have become perfectly adapted to an aquatic environment: they are able to withstand being underwater for up to 150 days and their flexible branches are not easily snapped off during floods.
Water-mill with café
For those who wish, these and other interesting facts can be discovered on a visit to Schwalm-Nette Nature Park. Otherwise, visitors can simply enjoy the scenery and the local flora and fauna, or else combine nature with a bit of local heritage. There are for example a number of water-mills dotted picturesquely around the landscape, including the 14th-century Molzmühle, a carefully restored gem in the riverside forests of Mühlenbach and Schwalm. The area where the farmers had something to eat while waiting for their grain to be milled is now a café serving delicious cake.
After enjoying this sustenance, visitors should be ready to tackle one of the premium hiking trails that are part of the Wasser.Wander.Welt (Water.Walking.World) hiking area. These easy-going trails lead along waterways and most are untarmacked. Instead, hikers will either have meadows or gravel and forest paths underfoot as they pass by habitats including the Schwalmbruch wetlands, the Nette valley with its lakes or the ancient forest of Birgel. The tours take between one and five hours.